For the benefit of solvers new to the rigours of the Advanced Cryptic, Dr Watson provides a monthly review of the Observer's Azed competition puzzle. Dr Watson is a regular Azed competitor. Please post any comments on this review to the Crossword Centre’s message board.

Azed No 1528: ‘Spoonerisms’ (2 Sep 2001)    

The Spoonerisms puzzle is one of Azed’s trademark specials, and never disappoints, as every clue contains a little gem of wit. The hardest part of it, as the Doctor knows from experience and from his correspondence, is getting to grips with the two clue types. Azed’s preamble is precise, but can be difficult to keep in mind while solving, so here’s Watson’s explanation, with examples:

Firstly, remember all the grid entries are normal words, and the cryptic indicators in the every clue are normal, too. The Spoonerisms only affect the definition part.

In the first type of clue (Type A’s), the definition defines a Spoonerism of the answer to be entered. 1d is a good example:

Ought marriage in e.g. odd dhows to be at sea? (12)

The cryptic part points to an anagram of ‘in e.g. odd dhows’ and the definition part is ‘ought marriage’. This can define the phrase ‘should wedding’, which is a Spoonerism of ‘wood-shedding’, the word indicated by the anagram. ‘Wood-shedding’ is the solution entered in the grid. Note that the meaning of the solution is irrelevant in this type of clue, as only a (usually meaningless) Spoonerised phrase is defined. The definition is usually therefore a two-part phrase, but not always, as 8d shows.

In the second type of clue (Type B’s), it is the definition in the clue itself that is Spoonerised, so here the meaning of the solution is relevant. Take 19a:

Grade of sheen, nothing vivid. (5)

The last two words here make up the cryptic part of the clue, and ‘grade of sheen’ is the Spoonerised definition. Undoing the Rev Spooner’s tongue-slip converts the definition to ‘shade of green’, and the solution is ‘olive’ (O + live).

One approach to starting the puzzle is to look, or rather listen, for phrases in the clues that could be Spoonerised definitions. Another is to try and solve a cryptic part on its own, then Spoonerise the result, and the remainder of the clue, and see which works. Some solvers advise trying out the Spoonerisms by saying them aloud. It adds to the fun, if you don’t mind the strange looks it may attract! Azed describes in one of his competition slips a mental picture of solvers muttering their way through the puzzle.

Because a type A requires a two or more syllable word, the longer solutions are more likely to be of this type. In this puzzle all four twelve-letter solutions have type A clues.

Here are the solutions and some notes. The clues are grouped into the two types:


Type A’s (definition of Spoonerised solution)

1a: Die desiring woman, healthy, negligible amount clothing bit of leg. WHALE-FISHING (fail wishing; w hale + shin in fig). Just as well the definition is irrelevant in this clue type as Chambers doesn’t define this word anyway!

11a: Green parrot I found in orchard having quit road, flapping. CHORIA (raw kia; I in anag. of orchard less rd.). Inevitably some Spoonerisms won’t be 100% precise, but this is pretty close.

12a: Shippon collapse brief, in ruins completely. FIREBALL (byre fall; anag. + all)

13a: Stop working spike to limit a unit of force. DIETINE (tie a dyne; die tine). Watson wonders if this is really pronounced ‘diet-een’, but Chambers gives no help.

24a: Drink a little gravy mixture for putting in bread like this. DIPSO (sip dough; dip so). Gravy in the sense of dosh, spondoolicks, etc.

28a: Left with debts, noggin drunk, round imbibed. ONGOING (gone owing; O in anag.). Note that it’s acceptable to move just one sound where one part of the Spoonerism starts with a vowel and the other with a consonant. The clue tempts you to look for a type B definition (deft with lets).

29a: US trainee with time to record some computer info. INTERNET (enter nit; interne + t). As the preamble says, Spoonerisms can be vocalic or consonantal. The reference to computers is just coincidence, as Azed wouldn’t drop a hint in this way.

30a: Sound, at all times a whinny (we hear), for example. NAYSAY (sane ay; ‘neigh’ say). Although unquestionably fair, and rather good, this has to be the most confusing clue of the puzzle, with its homophonic cryptic part. Azed carefully avoids defining ‘say nay’, and sets an enjoyably frustrating challenge.

32a: U channels? G-Girl snubbed rest dreadfully. GLASS-CUTTERS (class gutters; g-lass cut + anag.). This is a most unusual sort of stutter, but quite a common Azed device.

1d: Ought marriage in e.g. odd dhows to be at sea? WOOD-SHEDDING (should wedding; anag.)

2d: Smelly old droppings pong, that is with tons involved. HUMITE (high mute; hum + t in i.e.)

3d: Police going under treat wild water creature, tops. ATTERCOPS (otter caps; anag. + cops)

4d: X, a bit short, made no loans? LENTO (ten low; lent O). The question-mark points to the slightly indirect cryptic part.

7d: Crumpet greeting dissolved in blah about nothing. HOBNAIL (nob hail; O in anag.)

8d: Darkness?  One lit flares. NILOTE (no light; anag.). Azed defines the meaningful Spoonerised phrase offered by this solution, and shows just how neatly and concisely it can be done. Watson’s favourite of the type A’s.

9d: Blinking chokers - good friend has mine locked up in banks. GALLYBAGGERS (bally gaggers; g ally + egg rev. in bars).

23d: Container damage I removed from hotel room fridge? MINBAR (bin mar; min(I)bar)

26d: Dandy girl: date of death follows core bit of ecstasy. TOBIT (beau tit; (ecs)t(asy) + obit)


Type B’s (Spoonerised definition of solution)

10a: I won't let haze guide first to last in marching orders. OUTER (… gays hide; r to end in route).  Azed chooses the least obvious definition to spring a fine surprise on the solver. The wittiest of a witty bunch of type B’s.

15a: Sharpen. STROP. This one’s up to you.

16a: Formal Noakes was pressing about it. LAITY (normal folks; it in lay)

17a: Male keeps turning quiet!  Why hitch? HECATE (high witch; tace rev. in he)

19a: Grade of sheen:  nothing vivid. OLIVE (shade of green; O + live)

20a: Hack of punter's maybe, high ball of unusual size. LOBOS (pack of hunters… ; lob OS). Is a set the same thing as its members? Gödel may have had a view on this, but under the circumstances we probably shouldn’t worry too much about it.

22a: The governor, the priest and the low tinker? PALAMA (toe linker; pa lama). A clue that demonstrates Azed’s genius with Spoonerisms.

25a: Reprobate banished strip, wanton court of sex. STRIG (sort of kex; st(rip) + rig). Rather convoluted in the cryptic part and probably the hardest of the type B definitions.

31a: What navvy reads to perform is concocted with art. SITAR (…Ravi needs… ; anag. of is + art). The only clue to hide a real name in its definition. The reference is to Ravi Shankar, the popular sitarist.

5d: Hang on bed loop in iron. FRINGE (bang on head; ring in Fe). US solvers will be most familiar with this kind of bang.

6d: Hall smut, undated, the fellow penned. SHED (small hut; he in s.d.)

11d: See blushful love letter - mine's from lass maybe. CREDO (lines from mass… ; C red O)

14d: Verse song clad in pungency wherein air may palter BIVARIATE (…pair may alter; v aria in bite). A really tough one to clue, Watson suspects, but handled with style.

18d: What fuss's pill's giving sailors and chief engineer on steamer. ABSCESS (…pus fills; ABs CE SS). Oh, yuck! Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

20d: Len 'n' Ali possibly related to Kel 'n' Molly? LIENAL (…melancholy; anag). The Spoonerism nicely inverts the seriousness of the real definition.

21d:  Backing a lean second in Ascot's fashionable. STONY (lacking a bean; s + tony)

22d: What dog'll frown?  Tailless pug going round in river. PINEAU (…Frog’ll down; in ea in pu(g)). For those without a SOED, Watson can confirm that pineau is a French aperitif made from cognac and grape juice.

27d: We each have care of pups - take in hound that's lost set. BRAS (pair of cups; r in bas(set)). A nicely lateral approach. Azed is often less restrained with this kind of subject matter.